In advance of a congressional oversight hearing next week on the potential impacts of a Department of Energy (DOE) memorandum suggesting major changes in the federal hydropower system, Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Rep. Kristi Noem are voicing concerns about what those changes will mean for South Dakotans.
In a letter sent to U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, Gov. Daugaard said recent DOE directives are a threat to the reliable and economic electricity that is provided in South Dakota by hydroelectric dams on the Missouri River. DOE's memorandum would mandate rate and operational changes that would increase rates and reduce the value of federal power for consumers.
The changes would impact the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), which regulates electricity from the Missouri River dams. Several South Dakota state agencies, including the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University, receive power from the Missouri River dams.
"The Department's orders would essentially dismantle the federal hydropower system as it exists today and jeopardize the cost-based rate structure which has been the cornerstone of affordable electricity in South Dakota markets," Gov. Daugaard wrote. "Its proposed reforms would significantly increase electric rates to our state agencies, as well as many South Dakota consumers."
Noem, who is a member of the Natural Resources Committee, is expected to participate in next week's hearing and joined Daugaard in expressing concern.
"The reasoning behind these suggested policy changes, which would increase the cost of energy in South Dakota, needs to be closely scrutinized," said Rep. Noem. "I'm pleased Chairman Hastings is holding an oversight hearing on this issue next week, and look forward to questioning the DOE on the impacts to ratepayers not only in South Dakota, but across America."